New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had played a decisive role in unifying the country following independence. Modi also urged people to take part in the Run for Unity event which will be organized across the country on 31 October. Modi’s reference to Patel in his monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat" comes ahead of the inauguration of Patel’s statue on 31 October and the celebration of his birth anniversary.

“We will dedicate the Statue of Unity to the people of the country on 31 October as a way to show our respect to Sardar Patel who was instrumental in unifying the country. The Statue of Unity is twice the size of Statue of Liberty. People will be proud that the tallest statue in the world is in India," said Modi.

BJP leaders feel the Modi government is trying to spark a discussion about freedom fighters like Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh because the Congress had failed to acknowledge the efforts of these leaders in the freedom movement and instead promote only members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

“There is an attempt to borrow icons; it’s a desperate attempt to get their vote bank together for the 2019 general elections. This is incomplete appropriation and a half-hearted attempt because BJP leaders choose what suits them and do not follow the thoughts of these icons completely," said S. Irfan Habib, a Delhi-based historian and writer.

Previously, Modi had attended a flag hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort on 21 October to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the “Azad Hind Government" headed by Bose.

“There were several leaders in the freedom movement whose contributions have not been highlighted by the previous governments because of the dominance of one family. BJP is trying to change that and the PM is trying to remind the people about the contributions of such tall leaders," said a senior BJP leader.

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